Frank Belknap Long

Frank Belknap Long (April 27, 1901 - January 3, 1994) was a prolific American writer of horror fiction, fantasy, science fiction, poetry, gothic romance, comic books, and non-fiction. Though his writing career spanned seven decades, he is best known for his horror and science fiction short stories, including early contributions to the Cthulhu Mythos. During his life, Long received the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement (at the 1978 World Fantasy Convention), the Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement (in 1987, from the Horror Writers Association), and the First Fandom Hall of Fame Award (1977).


Frank Belknap Long was born in New York City in 1901, and grew up in the Harlem area of Manhattan. A lifelong resident of New York City, he was educated in the New York City public school system. As a boy he was fascinated by natural history, and wrote that he dreamed of running "away from home and explore the great rain forests of the Amazon." Though writing was to be his life's work, he once commented that as "important as writing is, I could have been completely happy if I had a secure position in a field that has always had a tremendous emotion an and imaginative appeal for me—that of natural history."

In his late teens, he was active in the United Amateur Press Association (UAPA). Long's story "The Eye Above the Mantel" (1921) in UAPA caught the eye of H. P. Lovecraft, sparking a friendship and correspondence that would endure until Lovecraft's death in 1937.

Long attended New York University from 1920 to 1921, studying journalism. In 1921, he suffered a severe attack of appendicitis, leading to a ruptured appendix and peritonitis. He spent a month in New York's Roosevelt Hospital, where he came close to dying. Long's brush with death propelled him into a decision that he would leave college to pursue a freelance writing career.

In 1923, at the age of 22, he sold his first short story, "The Desert Lich", to "Weird Tales" magazine. Throughout the next four decades, Long was to be a frequent contributor to pulp magazines, including two of the most famous: "Weird Tales" (under editor Farnsworth Wright) and "Astounding Science Fiction" (under editor John W. Campbell). Long was an active freelance writer, also publishing many non-fiction articles. His first book, "A Man from Genoa and Other Poems", was published in 1926.

What Long characterized as a "minor disability" kept him out of World War II and writing full time during the early 1940s. During the 1950s, Long worked as an associate editor for "Satellite Science Fiction", "Short Story", and "Mike Shayne's Mystery Magazine". He also wrote comic books, including horror stories for "Adventures Into the Unknown" (ACG), and scripts for "Superman", DC's Golden Age "Green Lantern", and the Fawcett Comics "Captain Marvel".

Ever versatile as a writer, Long changed with the times. After the decline of the pulps, he moved into writing science fiction and gothic romance novels (and even a "Man from UNCLE" tie-in novel, "The Electronic Frankenstein Affair", under the pen name Robert Hart Davis). Long's gothic romance novels were written under the pseudonyms Lyda Belknap Long (his wife's name) and Leslie Northern. Long also published collections of his short stories (such as "The Hounds of Tindalos" and "Night Fear") and poetry (including "In Mayan Splendor"), a biography of H. P. Lovecraft, "", and his own "Autobiographical Memoir" (Necronomicon Press, 1986).

He married Lyda Arco in 1960. They stayed together till Long's death in 1994, but had no children. Long described himself as an "agnostic." Referring to Lovecraft, Long wrote that he "always shared HPL's skepticism . . . concerning the entire range of alleged supernatural occurrences and what is commonly defined as 'the occult.'"

Long died on January 3, 1994 at the age of 92, survived by his wife, Lyda. He was buried in New York City's Woodlawn Cemetery. Despite a seven-decade career as a writer, he died impoverished; Long's fans contributed over $3000 to have his name engraved upon the tombstone of his family plot.

Frank Belknap Long left behind a body of work that included twenty-five novels, 150 short stories, eight collections of short stories, three poetry collections, and numerous freelance magazine articles and comic book scripts. Author Ray Bradbury summed up Long's career: "Frank Belknap Long has lived through a major part of science fiction history in the U.S., has known most of the writers personally, or has corresponded with them, and has, with his own writing, helped shape the field when most of us were still in our early teens."

Friendship with Lovecraft

"The Genius of Mr. Long is a spontaneous and self-expressive one."
—H. P. Lovecraft

H. P. Lovecraft was a close friend and mentor to Frank Belknap Long. They saw each other regularly (especially during Lovecraft's residence in New York City from 1924 to 1926) and wrote to each other often. Long writes that he and Lovecraft exchanged "more than a thousand letters, not a few running to more than eighty handwritten pages" before Lovecraft's death in 1937. Some of their correspondence has been reprinted in Arkham House's "Selected Letters" series, collecting the voluminous correspondence of Lovecraft and his friends.

During the 1930s, Long and Lovecraft were both members of the Kalem Club (named for the initials of the surnames of original members--K, L, or M). Long was also part of the loosely associated "Lovecraft Circle" of fantasy writers (along with Robert Bloch, August Derleth, Robert E. Howard, Henry Kuttner, Clark Ashton Smith, C.M. Eddy, Jr., and Donald Wandrei) who corresponded regularly with each other and influenced and critiqued each other's works.

The Long/Lovecraft friendship was fictionalized in Peter Cannon's 1985 novel "Pulptime: Being a Singular Adventure of Sherlock Holmes, Lovecraft, and the Kalem Club as if Narrated by Frank Belknap Long, Jr."

Long wrote a number of early Cthulhu Mythos stories. These included "The Hounds of Tindalos" (the first Mythos story written by anyone other than Lovecraft), "The Horror from the Hills" (which introduced the elephantine Great Old One Chaugnar Faugn to the Mythos), and "The Space-Eaters" (featuring a fictionalized HPL as its main character).

The Hounds of Tindalos are Long's most famous fictional creation. The Hounds were a pack of foul and incomprehensibly alien beasts "emerging from strange angles in dim recesses of non-Euclidean space before the dawn of time" (Long) to pursue travelers down the corridors of time. They could only enter our reality via angles, where they would mangle and exsanguinate their victims, leaving behind only a "peculiar bluish pus or ichor" (Long). The Hounds of Tindalos have been used or referenced by many later Mythos writers, including Ramsey Campbell, Lin Carter, and Brian Lumley. Long's Hounds of Tindalos have also inspired a number of metal and electronic music artists, such as Epoch of Unlight, Edith Byron's Group, Beowulf, Fireaxe [ /Brian Voth] , and Univers Zero, all of whom have recorded tracks based upon the story.

Further reading

*Cannon, Peter, "Long Memories: Recollections of Frank Belknap Long", Stockport British Fantasy Society, 1997. Afterword by Ramsey Campbell

*Long, Frank Belknap, "Autobiographical Memoir", Necronomicon Press, 1986.

*Long, Frank Belknap, "The Early Long: the Hounds of Tindalos", Jove Books, 1978.

*Long, Frank Belknap, "Howard Phillips Lovecraft: Dreamer on the Night Side", Arkham House, 1975.

External links

* [ Frank Belknap Long Bibliography at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database]

* [ Frank Belknap Long: Fantasist of Multiple Dimensions (biographical essay by Perry M. Grayson)]

* [ Frank Belknap Long Bibliography (w Photo)]

* [ "The Ultimate Cthulhu Mythos Book List"] - Listing of all mythos novels, anthologies, collections, comic books, and more.

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